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Mr gedrick and me, p.6
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       Mr. Gedrick and Me, p.6

           Patrick Carman
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  “Sometimes, when something very difficult happens, it’s impossible to find the way back to where you once were,” Mr. Gedrick said. “There’s a reason for that.”

  “What’s the reason?” Amelia asked.

  Mr. Gedrick leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. He folded his hands.

  “We’re not supposed to go back to where we were. There’s someplace new, out there, waiting for us. We only have to go and find it. And when we do, then the inspiration will find us once again.”

  I started to feel like I was going to cry, because I knew exactly how Amelia felt when Mr. Gedrick said those things. I knew because I felt that way, too. She couldn’t go back—neither could I. There’s no there there. Our dad was gone.

  “You’re asking me to forget about my dad, to leave him behind.”

  Mr. Gedrick stood up and looked at his watch. “Time goes forward, Amelia. It doesn’t stand still or move in reverse. Mr. Darrow would have wanted you to move on. He would want you to be happy again.”

  “You didn’t even know my dad. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  Mr. Gedrick’s face softened and he nodded. “Things aren’t always as they seem at first glance.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  Whatever lesson Mr. Gedrick was trying to teach my sister wasn’t working.

  “She’s not making much progress,” Amelia said, staring back at the blank paper and holding back tears.

  “Not true,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Look how full the garbage can is? All the ideas on the way to the great idea are in there. She’s closer than she thinks she is.”

  “The ideas on the way to the great idea. Sounds like a lot of work.”

  “That it is,” Mr. Gedrick agreed.

  Amelia said good night and that was my cue to run like the wind. She’d left her door open and I looked inside as I went past. She had crumpled up all the papers I’d brought her. They were around the room like pieces of dirty laundry.

  I cut across the hall and slipped into my room before Amelia showed up. A minute later I was in bed listening to Fergus snore.

  “You can find your way again,” I said, thinking of my sister. “You can do this. Also we need those plans or I don’t get to use the power tools, and that would be a huge bummer.”


  The next morning I heard a light tapping on my door and looked over at the clock.

  It was six a.m.

  The soft knock came again, and this time the door opened a crack and Mr. Gedrick’s eyeball peered inside.

  “Meet me at Fred in two minutes,” he whispered. “And keep quiet on our little trip. This isn’t for you, it’s for her.” Then the door shut again.

  Yes! I loved Fred, so I hoped this meant we were going for another wild ride around the neighborhood. I didn’t bother to change out of my pajamas. When I got out into the hallway, Mr. Gedrick was tapping on Amelia’s door.

  “Why am I awake?” I heard her murmur unhappily.

  “Come along,” Mr. Gedrick said. “I have something to show you.”

  “Come back in three hours,” Amelia said.

  “I’m quite sure we need to go now,” Mr. Gedrick said. “In a few hours, it will be open.”

  This, like so many things Mr. Gedrick said and did, made absolutely no sense.

  “Don’t ask about the plan,” Amelia said. “It’s not ready yet.”

  “I know,” Mr. Gedrick said. “It will be ready when it’s ready. That’s the only time things are ready.”

  “When they’re ready,” Amelia parroted.

  “Off we go then,” Mr. Gedrick said, and I ran to the front door before Amelia could see me. I wanted it to be a surprise. I jumped right into Fred’s sidecar and watched as they arrived on the front porch.

  “If you’re taking me outside to pick weeds, I’d like to remind you that child labor is illegal in the United States.”

  Mr. Gedrick didn’t respond as he walked toward Fred.

  “A convertible,” Amelia said, brightening. “Now we’re talking.”

  “Hey there, guys!” I said, waving from the sidecar.

  “Where does he get the energy?” Amelia wondered aloud as she walked down to the driveway, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

  Mr. Gedrick was in the driver’s seat seconds later, wrapping the old-style seat belt around his waist. He took the driving goggles out of the glove box, pulled them over his head, and turned to his companion.

  “Buckle up,” he said, petting the dashboard. “Fred isn’t too happy to be up early either. This is likely to be a bumpy ride.”

  “Yeah, buckle up,” I said, crouching down in my little compartment like a race car driver.

  “Who’s Fred?” Amelia asked.

  The second he heard the click of Amelia’s seat belt, Mr. Gedrick backed up with ferocious speed, slammed the gearshift forward, and blasted down the empty street.

  “You weren’t kidding about the seat belt!” Amelia shouted.

  “Awesome, right?!” I added.

  We sped out of the neighborhood onto a four-lane road and then onto the freeway. The wind was whipping my hair all over the place and I wished I’d brought my baseball cap.

  “Were you a race car driver in a previous life?” Amelia yelled.

  “Only in my dreams,” Mr. Gedrick said, slamming his foot down on the gas and whooshing past a semi.

  At the speed we were going, it didn’t take long to reach our destination, which turned out to be the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s a big stone building with two green lions standing in front, apparently guarding the place. Mr. Gedrick parked in the shadow of the lions and took his goggles off. He ran his hands along his hair, which was standing on end, and when he was done, he looked as perfectly put together as ever. Amelia, on the other hand, looked like she’d just gone through a cycle in a washing machine.

  “You look nuts!” I said.

  “Join the club, little brother. It looks like you just stuck a fork in a light socket.”

  “Everyone still in one piece?” Mr. Gedrick asked.

  “Barely,” Amelia said, but she looked as happy as I’d seen her in a long time. “What are we doing here? They’re not even open.”

  “Precisely,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  He exited the car and we followed, chasing him down as he took two stone steps at a time to the entrance.

  “Wait for me!” Amelia said. “Also, we can’t go in there. Like I said, they’re not open. It was a nice ride all the same.”

  Mr. Gedrick ignored her until he reached the front door. He rapped on it three times with his knuckles.

  Amelia caught up and stood next to Mr. Gedrick. “I told you already. We can’t get in there.”

  Just about that time a man appeared on the other side of the glass door. He spied Mr. Gedrick, and turned a key in the lock.

  Mr. Gedrick looked down at Amelia with one of his half smiles. “You were saying?”

  He held the door open for me and Amelia, and I thought about what he had said to me back at home. This isn’t for you, it’s for her. I made a mental note to stay quiet.

  “Thank you, Walter,” Mr. Gedrick said. “Would you mind keeping an eye on Fred? He’s right there, by the lion.”

  “Of course, Mr. Gedrick,” the man said. “You have an hour. Take your time.”

  “Brilliant,” Mr. Gedrick said as he whisked Amelia inside the grand building. I let myself fall a little behind so they could have their privacy.

  “Are we going to jail for this?” Amelia asked nervously. I had never been in a building that wasn’t open and neither had she, let alone a famous museum. “Because if we are, I should have brought actual shoes. Jail in floppy slippers sounds like a terrible idea.”

  “Follow me,” Mr. Gedrick said. “The items I’d like to show you are thisaway.”

  We rushed past many paintings and sculptures, but Mr. Gedrick didn’t stop in front of any of them. Amelia kept asking him questio
ns as she passed more and more things: Is this what you want me to see? Or this? Or that? But they kept on going, deeper into the museum. Amelia’s floppy slippers slapped on the bottoms of her feet, echoing down the long, empty corridors.

  We came to a wide door that was closed, and finally, Mr. Gedrick stopped. He knelt down next to Amelia so she could look into his eyes.

  “Behind this door lies inspiration,” Mr. Gedrick said, glancing at his watch. “You have fifty-one minutes. Make the most of them.”

  Now Amelia was excited. No one had ever brought her to a door and said words like that. I felt butterflies in my stomach.

  “Do you know, my dad used to bring me here sometimes,” she said, inching forward and putting her hand on the door handle. “The boys didn’t like it so much, but I did, so he would take only me.”

  “That’s true,” I said. “I’m not a big art buff. But this is still cool.”

  “I suspect those are very good memories,” Mr. Gedrick said to Amelia. “Very good indeed.”

  Amelia nodded. “I always brought a drawing pad with me, and he brought one, too. His drawings were awful, stick figures and square houses. But he always drew right along with me. I liked that about him. He would do things he wasn’t any good at, just because I didn’t want to do them alone.”

  “You learned something from those times,” Mr. Gedrick said. “You’re observant, Amelia.”

  Amelia smiled at Mr. Gedrick and pulled the heavy door open. I scurried through behind both of them before it shut in my face.

  Inside was a room filled with strange, round objects. On the wall leading in there was a name that was even stranger.

  “Who is Buckminster Fuller?” Amelia asked. “And why does he have such a goofy name?”

  Mr. Gedrick waved his hand across the room. “Mr. Fuller made all of these things, only they were much bigger when he made them. These are only models. He was an architect, like your mother. Like you.”

  “Oh, I’m not an architect. I just draw things for fun.”

  But even as she said it I could tell she wished and wished that she was an architect. She had always loved the idea of designing hotels, libraries, and skyscrapers.

  “We shall see about that,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  He took her to the first of many large pedestals with one of the round objects on top.

  Amelia was mesmerized by the weirdness of it. “This is a building?”

  “That it is,” Mr. Gedrick answered. “A very famous one. He designed it for the 1967 World Expo. It was large—big enough to put hundreds of people inside.”

  The smaller version looked like something that belonged on Mars or at Disneyland. It was round and white. I could tell Amelia loved it.

  “And is this a house?” Amelia asked, racing over to another pedestal. There was only half a dome on this one, cut down the middle so we could see inside.

  “Precisely,” Mr. Gedrick said, “it’s a round house.”

  “It looks like a barn but the middle is a big bubble shaped like a golf ball,” I said.

  Mr. Gedrick eyeballed me—zip it, Stanley—and I zipped it. I mean I actually did. I ran my fingers across my lips and zipped my mouth shut. Then I threw away the key.

  Amelia looked up at Mr. Gedrick. “I love Buckminster Fuller.”

  “I thought you might.”

  “Did you bring any paper? And a pencil?” Amelia asked.

  Mr. Gedrick had an extra field guide, and he took it out of his green felt jacket, handing it to Amelia. There was already a pencil tucked inside, with a nice sharp point.

  “Architecture Field Guide,” Amelia said, reading the cover. “Is this for me?”

  Mr. Gedrick nodded, and then he looked at his watch again. “Forty-six more minutes. Better make haste.”

  After that, Mr. Gedrick answered a lot of questions as Amelia went from dome to dome, making notes and small drawings in the field guide. Some of the domes were cut in half so she could see inside, where she found odd-looking desks and tables and rooms. She drew more and more, and then she came to a very large circular dome sitting on the floor.

  “Can I go inside?” she asked, because there was an open entryway. I wanted to go in there in the worst way, but it was Amelia’s day, so I pretended my shoes were glued to the floor. It’s a good thing I had all the imaginary glue and zippers or I’d have been freaking out left and right.

  “I think Mr. Fuller and Mr. Darrow would want you to go inside,” Mr. Gedrick said. “No doubt about it.”

  Somehow I felt like she might find Dad inside, waiting for her with a big smile on his face. He would say things like Don’t you just love how nutty this house is? or You could make one of these in the backyard, I’m sure of it. I could tell that she felt Dad all around—I felt it, too—even if he wasn’t there. I went to the door and watched her as she looked at the curved glass and yellow furniture and soft cushions. She moved around the room, taking it all in.

  “Mr. Gedrick.” A voice came from the door. It was Walter, who had let us in. “Just a few more minutes.”

  “Of course, thank you, Walter,” Mr. Gedrick said.

  Amelia didn’t want to go yet—this place was too exciting. But I could tell she also wanted to leave, because she was feeling inspired to draw. Perfect for me! This meant we were one step closer to getting ahold of those plans.

  A half hour later when we pulled into the driveway, Amelia turned to Mr. Gedrick. She had been drawing and drawing all the way, hardly looking up as Mr. Gedrick took things a little slower. He knew it was hard to draw in a speeding car.

  “Fred doesn’t often enjoy a slow drive,” Mr. Gedrick explained. “But he knew you were working on something important. Sometimes, slow is best. Even for a speed demon.”

  “I hope you take your own advice,” Amelia offered. “Good plans take time, they can’t be rushed.”

  “You should tell that to your mother. She’s awfully hard on herself.”

  Amelia nodded quietly as she looked at the notes and drawings she’d done.

  “Thank you for taking me there.”

  Amelia hesitated for a second and then said one more thing. “I think I’m ready to make your plans.”

  “Wonderful,” Mr. Gedrick said. “I am so pleased.”

  She leaned across the seat and gave Mr. Gedrick a hug, then ran to the front door and disappeared inside.

  “Can I unzip my lip now?” I asked.

  “Not quite yet.”

  I got out of the sidecar and waited.

  Mr. Gedrick took out his field guide to the Darrows and jotted down a few quick notes.

  “It’s all connected,” he said.

  “What is?”

  “Time, magic, grief, renewal.”

  I really wanted to unzip my mouth and say something, but I could tell Mr. Gedrick was in one of his thinking moods so I didn’t.

  Then we wandered into the house and got to talking about plans and power tools and breakfast.


  I went to my room to tell Fergus all about the adventure I’d just been on. Fergus was only half-awake, and he kept telling me to stop talking or get out. We started to argue, because I had already been quiet for like two hours and I really wanted to talk. But then there was a new, fantastic smell coming from the kitchen and Fergus couldn’t keep his eyes closed anymore.

  “He has got to stop working in the kitchen so early in the morning,” Fergus said. He sat up and grumbled some more, then his stomach rumbled. “Come on, little man. Let’s go see what’s cooking.”

  It turned out to be something Mr. Gedrick called monkey bread. It was soft and chewy and covered in some kind of caramel sauce. It felt like waking up in a French bakery.

  We polished off the whole thing in ten minutes flat, and then we all went to the garage while Mom got ready for her meeting with Huxley Harvold. Amelia had a rolled-up tube of paper in one hand, and she stared nervously at the concrete floor.

  “I’ve got baseball practice in an hour,
” Fergus said. He didn’t want to be stuck in the garage any longer than he had to be. “What’s this all about?”

  “I told you already,” I said. “It’s a plan. Something we can work on together. And we get to use Dad’s power tools!”

  “You mean I get to use the power tools,” Fergus corrected. “You can use the hammer as long as you don’t hit your thumb with it.”

  I looked at Mr. Gedrick for support, but he wouldn’t back me up.

  “Stanley!” Fergus yelled. He had walked over to Bob’s cage to say hi to the lizard.

  “I’m standing right here,” I said. “You don’t have to yell.”

  But Fergus was mad when he turned toward everyone else. “You left Bob’s cage open, dope. Now he’s gone!”

  I ran to the cage and tried to get my whole head inside the door, but my head was too big. I looked through all the openings and checked all the spots where Bob liked to sit.

  “But that can’t be,” I said, my eyes darting all over the garage. “I’m sure I closed it.”

  “You fed him last,” Fergus said. “That was Dad’s pet. I can’t believe this.”

  “You never spent time with him anyway,” I said, my lower lip quivering. “Bob disappeared for you a long time ago.”

  Fergus stomped out of the garage, shaking his head. He didn’t exactly love Bob and hadn’t ever had much to do with him, but he was still mad our little lizard had escaped.

  “Why’d Dad have to leave the dumb thing behind anyway?” Fergus said, his voice trailing back into the garage.

  “Wait, Fergus,” I said. “We need your help on the project. Don’t go!”

  But he was gone.

  Amelia gripped the tube of paper she held on to—the plans!—and shook her head. She was barely holding it together. “Nice going, Stanley.”

  “It was an accident,” I said. “Bob will come back. I know he will.”

  “I hope you’re right,” Amelia said, but I could tell she wasn’t so sure. “One more part of Dad we can never get back again.”

  She walked out of the garage. Amelia was gone, and the plans went with her.

  “This is a disaster,” I said, and my eyes got blurry. I went back to the cage just to be sure Bob was really gone. “I ruined everything.”

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